University of Maryland researchers share expert knowledge

Aparajita Banerjee By APARAJITA BANERJEE

The University of Maryland showcased its clean energy initiatives at the 4th Annual Energy and Sustainability Extravaganza on February 23, 2018. The panel consisted of distinguished faculty members who are either leading critical research in the university or managing sustainability initiatives on campus.

The panel was moderated by Lisa Lincoln, Executive Director, Prince George’s Green. Panelists were Dr. Yunho Hwang, Research Professor and Associate Director, Center for Environmental Energy Engineering; Dr. Peter Sandborn, Professor and Director, Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute; Alla McCoy, Innovation and Economic Development, Division of Research, President’s Office; Dr. Nathan Hultman, Associate Professor and Director, Center for Global Sustainability, School of Public Policy; and Mark Stewart Senior Sustainability Officer, University of Maryland. Find more about the panel here.

Dr. Hwang began by sharing his research in the different areas of energy efficiency using technologies like thermoelastic cooling, electrochemical compression, and saturation cycle methods. In the field of renewable energy he has researched technologies such as absorption heat pumps, solar cooling, and the use of renewable energy in desalination. He has designed a Roving Comforter, a personal attendant designed for thermal comfort, where heating and cooling can be done through one or more robotically controlled air nozzles. The university also has a Solar Decathlon, where a courtyard is converted as a solar collector where resilient, adaptive climate technology is used to optimize performance.

Lisa Lincoln (not pictured), Dr. Yunho Hwang, Dr. Peter Sandborn, Alla McCoy, Dr. Nathan Hultman, and Mark Stewart (l-r)

Dr. Sandborn discussed the different opportunities and initiatives at the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), whose goal is to create value for the State of Maryland by promoting entrepreneurship, education, creating new ventures, and delivering value to companies. Programs at Mtech encourage participation from students, faculty, staff, other public universities in Maryland, local communities, multinational companies, and other national universities. UMD also funds research to collaborate with industries in Maryland to provide research and development expertise that can accelerate product commercialization. The State of Maryland funds some of these projects, for example, the Department of Natural Resources. Dr. Sandborn also drew attention to the exceptional UMD Entrepreneurship Education program that attracts a large number of students both on and off-campus and creates high-achieving young entrepreneurs.

Along the same lines, McCoy explained the different resources and customized guidance that UMD provides to startups so that faculty members can apply their research in the private sector. As a result, a vibrant ecosystem for entrepreneurship has begun to flourish in the region, with notable successful companies. Different entities on campus have partnered to provide a range of resources, for example, funds, advisors, mentors, and incubator space. Inventors are also supplied with critical support that helps them in the commercialization of their invention, such as intellectual property assessments and protection to help them access markets.

Moving to the energy and climate policy research conducted at UMD, Dr. Hultman said the University is taking significant strides in research, education, and policy, with regional, national, and global impacts. The School of Public Policy and multiple research centers provide a range of possibilities to people interested in clean energy development. Dr. Hultman also pointed out that UMD researchers have participated in different national and global policy initiatives that have driven action on climate change.

With regard to the sustainability initiatives on campus, Stewart highlighted the ambitious, university-wide sustainability goals. These include work on achieving carbon neutrality, demonstrating excellence in Smart Growth, minimizing waste, encouraging sustainable water use, promoting sustainability education, and advancing sustainability regionally and globally. UMD allocates thousands of dollars to fund innovative sustainability projects. Courses have been revised to include sustainability in the curriculum. UMD also partners with local community organizations to address their sustainability needs and concerns.

Sustainability is rapidly growing in colleges and universities, with many opportunities for students and faculty alike. Becoming more acquainted with sustainability policy is an excellent way to engage in the area. Regarding changes in federal leadership on clean energy and sustainability, the panel pointed out that cooperation is the key, where citizens can break boundaries and continue the movement. Panelists also pointed out that citizens can play a critical role in creating consensus and proposing new ideas that will facilitate change. On concerns about funding, the panelists advised the audience to be creative in making an economic argument, rather than a green argument, to convince decision-makers on the profit potential of a business venture.

Aparajita Banerjee, Ph.D. in Environmental and Energy Policy, is interested in exploring how effective policies can be framed and implemented to transition to a sustainable and alternative future. Her expertise are in bioenergy and renewable energy, sharing and circular economy, and degrowth. Apart from publishing in different peer-reviewed journals, she has recently co-edited a book titled “Environmental Policy and the Pursuit of Sustainability.” 

Photos courtesy of Samantha Walker.

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